Claiming our “personal magic” could be the rallying cry for our generation. I love that phrase because it signifies that the ways in which we are authentically different or unique have power–and it’s a power that we sometimes don’t understand when it happens, like magic. But, as your post suggests, this is not always an easy task.
My own journey is where I’ve probably learned the most powerful lessons regarding this topic. Despite being a fairly confident and outgoing guy for most of my life, discovering and, more critically, unleashing my personal magic hasn’t always been easy for me. One of my own hurdles is a hardwiring in my personality towards extroversion. This means for me that, whether I like it or not, it matters a lot to me what other people think about me. And, that constant pull to be accepted, liked, even admired can be a pretty powerful force that has caused me at times to act in ways that weren’t truly who I was or to downplay some of my uniqueness if I felt it might not be popular. I’ve had to work hard to neutralize these forces so that I can unleash my personal magic (or fly my freak flag proudly if you prefer) more often.
My experience has been that there are three really critical elements to making this happen: self awareness, self acceptance, and conflict.
Any discussion about freak flags and personal magic has to start with a quest to achieve self awareness. And, this quest must go farther than simply taking a personality test. Robust self awareness includes not only an understanding of your hard wiring like personality and styles and strengths, but it should also include an awareness of what makes your story unique. What experiences throughout your life have defined you? Who are the most important people in your story, today and in the past? What have been your major failures and what have you learned from those? What about you annoys other people? What about you inspires other people?
But, beyond these questions are two even deeper components of self awareness that often go overlooked. The first is to find clarity about “why” you do what you do? What do you value? What is so important to you that you’d make sacrifices to protect it? What do you stand for? Why are you here? The second component of self awareness revolves around where you are going. What do you aspire to be? Who do you aspire to be? What does the future of your life look like in your mind’s eye?
Self awareness is about asking big important questions of yourself and those around you. It is about collecting and gathering feedback and information from the world around you and digesting that with your own notions of self to try to find the most accurate and objective picture of yourself that you can. Then, you layer in your interntions, values and aspirations for the future and you’ve got a great start towards unleashing your personal magic.
But, we can’t stop there. As you suggested in the title of your post, you first “Name it,” and then you have to “Claim it.” That boils down to acceptance and ownership. It’s about finding the courage to fully accept ourselves as the brilliant mess of humanity that we are. This isn’t always easy, particularly if we live in communities or among people who want us to fit in, to be more like everyone else. Or, if we work in an organization where, like most, the expectation is to fall in line, assimilate, and not rock the boat. Here’s the secret that most people don’t realize until too late in their life. Most people, despite their words, admire the outlier, the person who stands out from the crowd and who at least appears to fully accept themselves as unique. Generally, when others pressure you to fit in, they do it because if you chose to give up some of your identity, it makes them feel better about doing the same. When you fly your freak flag, it reminds others that they once had a freak flag too. Being unique and accepting yourself as unique is both personally freeing and inspirational to those around you. Own your personal magic and unleash it on the world. Fly that flag.
And then, as I suggested above, comes the resistance. Cultures within organizations are both great and horrible at the same time. They can be the fabric that defines an organization and provides the spoken or unspoken guidelines that preserves what makes the organization unique. But, cultures can also have a cult-like effect where the expectation becomes that people think, dress and behave the same way. Cultures like this form a sort immune system that can attack difference in both subtle and not so subtle ways.
So, when you unleash your authentic self on the world, you will meet resistance. Either individuals will try to “help you” fit in better in order to make themselves feel better about sacrificing their own sense of self. Or, your organization’s cultural antibodies will attack, trying to help you assimilate into “how we do things around here.” Being unique, flying your freak flag, unleashing your personal magic will be met with conflict. Embrace it. When the conflict comes, that’s a validation that you are being unique. If no one is trying to help you “fit in,” then you probably need to do some work either on awareness or acceptance. You need to be showing more of your magic to the world.
That’s what it’s looked like for me, Joe. A relentless and ongoing quest for personal awareness. Finding a way to then accept fully who I am and what makes me unique. And finally, embracing the resistance to my magic as a sign of progress and validation.
What has been the key for you?